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Letters to the Editor: USC has more to atone for than Rufus B. von KleinSmid’s eugenics advocacy

The building formerly named after Rufus B. von KleinSmid.
Rufus B. von KleinSmid’s name was removed from USC’s international relations building on June 11.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: I am very happy to see former USC President Rufus von KleinSmid’s building name and bust finally being removed from the USC campus.

What was missing from your article about these long-overdue decisions is that the eugenics movement that Von KleinSmid championed also targeted groups we today classify as white but weren’t in the early to mid-1900s. This included southern and eastern Europeans such as Italians, Greeks and Jews.

Jews, specifically, partly due to this “racial” bias, but also because they otherwise would have qualified for university admission far above their percentage of the population, were subject to strict quotas at Ivy League and other top-flight universities. At Von KleinSmid’s USC, it has been alleged that only one Jew per year was allowed into the school.

Such quotas, at USC and elsewhere, wouldn’t begin to be lifted until the 1950s.

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Vincent Brook, Los Angeles

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To the editor: California’s distinction for the world’s most aggressive eugenics program did not end in 1909 with the passage of the state’s sterilization law. A 2013 report from the Center for Investigative Reporting found that hundreds of female prisoners were sterilized without proper state approval between the late 1990s and 2010.

As a result of the disclosure, then-Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law banning forced sterilizations in the state’s prison system.

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Yet it remains perfectly legal for a state to require a woman to be sterilized because of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Buck vs. Bell in 1927 that remains on the books despite the passage of time and changes in public opinion.

Walt Gardner, Los Angeles

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To the editor: I am sure the Los Angeles city government will soon change the name of Woodrow Wilson Golf Course in Griffith Park and refuse to support Planned Parenthood. Wilson, our 28th president, and Margret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, were supporters of eugenics.

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In reality, I doubt that will ever happen, as our political discourse in media is a one-way street.

Patrick Henry, Torrance

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To the editor: With the removal of Von KleinSmid’s name and bust from the USC campus, and amid the national call to remove all historical figures associated with bigotry and racism, I have a question:

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Will this nation’s colleges and universities ban from their campuses all the fraternities and sororities that historically barred blacks and Jews from membership? How far do we go in erasing the murkiest elements of our history?

Gordon Cohn, Long Beach


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